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Is having at least two children a qualification of a pastor or deacon?

This is a cross-post from my theology blog Ready to Harvest

There are some who claim that to be a pastor, a person must have at least two children. They object to a pastor who has no children or only one. These people get their justification for this claim from 1 Timothy 3, which reads:

1Tim 3:1-7  This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.  (2)  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;  (3)  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;  (4)  One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;  (5)  (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)  (6)  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  (7)  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Verse 12 states

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

Specifically, the person who thinks that a pastor should have more than one child (referred to going forward as the objector), will refer to verse four and twelve, and say that since we are in a passage about qualifications, and the bishop (pastor) and deacon is referred to as having children, then anyone without children (plural) is not qualified to be a bishop or deacon.

Let’s consider the reasons why the scripture does not actually prohibit a man without children being a pastor.

  1. The mention of “children” is not listed as a qualification to have children

What are the requirements given for? They are given to prevent an unqualified or disqualified man from taking the office. In the chart below, consider each of the qualifications and the opposite, disqualifying position:

With this in mind, it is apparent that the command to have “his children in subjection with all gravity” is present to prevent the opposite – a man who has children that are not in subjection. The passage doesn’t address the case of a man without children, but only that children which he does have must be in subjection.

2. Making every mention of children become a qualifier to the position leads to strange inconsistencies in scripture

If we do take the position that a reference to a person having children means that the person must have children, we end up with this strange case. Consider the requirements listed in Luke 14:26 to be a disciple:

Luke 14:26  If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Following the same pattern as the objectors do in 1 Timothy, a person cannot be a disciple unless they have a wife (no woman disciples), have children (no single or one-child disciples), have brethren and sisters (no disciples who have only sisters or only brothers, and no only-child disciples). But this is contradictory, because Acts tells us that Tabitha (A woman) was a disciple, and we are quite certain she didn’t have a wife.

Let’s take another example. Titus 2:4 tells us about the older women teaching the young women:

Tit 2:4  That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

Does this passage mean one cannot be a young woman unless they have children? Or at least they cannot be a teachable young woman? No, it obviously is speaking of them to be taught to love husband or child even if they aren’t yet married – e.g. in the future. The same could be said for the Bishop and deacon requirement. If they don’t have children, then they certainly don’t have children which are not in subjection. Later when they do have children, then we can see if they become unqualified.

Objection: The requirement is there because for a person to be qualified to pastor or be a deacon, they need to demonstrate that they can raise children properly, which cannot be known if the person has no children.

Answer: However, as we have seen, there is no such requirement. The reason a person may think a requirement could be there does not make such a requirement exist. If there is such a requirement for pastor, then there is an inconsistency in the requirement for a disciple, as seen above, and because there are no errors in scripture, there is no such requirement of multiple children for a pastor.

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Posted by on September 24, 2018 in Doctrine

 

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